- The late Jim LeCorchick was a big part of my Gannon basketball experience for the past 30+ years, starting with his "Knights On The Line" call-in radio program during the 1980s and extending into a longtime friendship. He was one of the people I shook hands with before every Gannon home game, and we would often keep a running dialogue during timeouts. No matter the circumstances, Jimmy made the games more enjoyable. He was certainly missed this weekend.
- Last year's 7-19 season still stings. My wife didn't attend Friday's nail-biter against Lake Erie but she followed the live stats, and when the Knights were trailing the Storm late, she texted me, "You pulling your hair out?" I wasn't because even though Lake Erie entered the game winless, I half-expected Gannon to lose since I got so used to defeats last year. You know the saying, "Been down so low, don't know which way is up"? That's me right now. It will take a Gannon win streak of several games for me to fully rebound from last season's catastrophe.
- It wasn't so long ago that drawing 1,240 fans to the Audi would have been described as a disappointing crowd for Gannon. But the Knights attracted that many people this weekend -- for both games combined. The official box scores listed an attendance of 614 for Friday and 626 for Saturday. Gannon's "6th Man" was a real factor that boosted the program into the upper echelon of small college basketball. Now "6 Men" regrettably represents 1% of the total attendance for a game.
- What also has me feeling empty is our country's rise in hate crimes these past few weeks against minorities. Furthermore, many Americans are denying or ignoring the root cause what has emboldened these white nationalists which makes the problem even worse. What does this have to do with Gannon basketball? Until I walked-on to the Gannon team in 1988, I had little to no contact with African-Americans and non-Americans. My four years on the team showed me that all men are equal (though most were taller than me), and for us to quietly tolerate inequality is unconscionable. If my statements make you uncomfortable and if you're thinking of telling me to "stick to basketball," blame my coaches, priests, and mentors at Gannon who taught me it's our duty to speak out against social injustice. And blame Bobby Kennedy, too.
Why Gannon Beat Lake Erie: Bottom line, Gannon had more talent than the Storm. That might seem like on obvious statement, but it's not one we could make after most games last season. This club is quicker, more aggressive, more athletic, and more offensively skilled than last year's team. Newcomers Zay Jackson and Gerrell Williams are threats in transition and shooting jumpers, while big man Evan Phoenix has great hands and a nifty half-hook.
Lake Erie stayed in the game only because of hot three-point shooting in the first half (10-of-14 3FG). But when John Reilly adjusted his half court man defense to help less on dribble penetration, and thus discourage kick-out passes that had led to open threes, the Storm's game plan was nullified and it was only a matter of time before Gannon ran away with this one.
Why Gannon Lost To Ohio Dominican: One of the first lessons I learned from Tom Chapman my freshman year at Gannon was that well-coached teams take away your first option on offense, and the extremely prepared teams take away your first and your second options. Consider ODU one of those highly prepared teams. I sat near their bench, and coach Dan Evans and his assistants knew almost all of Gannon's half court and inbounds plays, calling out instructions to their players before Gannon executed its set.
Personnelwise, ODU neutralized Phoenix in the post through a combination double teams and the long arms of tournament MVP Hasan Varence. They also chased three-point threat Jackson all night, harassing him into a 1-of-8 shooting chart, and forcing the Knights to rely on a third option. In the first half, that was senior Matt Dogan who burned the nets with 12 points on 6-for-7 shooting, but he played limited minutes in the second half, never seeing action after being subbed out at the 12:29 mark despite being GU's leading scorer at that point. No third option on offense meant no Gary Miller Classic title.
Based on the history of the PSAC, the Knights appear to have the ability to post a winning season and even battle for one of the top spots in the conference. To achieve that, they need to add at least a couple new offensive schemes to keep opponents off balance while at the same time developing a reliable third option on offense. The defense is pretty close I think. They frustrated Ohio Dominican during a 26-point first half and held the Panthers 22 points below their season average for the game. Limiting dribble penetration by the primary ballhandler plagued Gannon both games, but the D was strong in many other aspects.